I'm a freelance writer living on the Sunshine Coast.
Published August 16th 2015
When Hired Help Becomes Wired Help
If you grew up watching cartoons in the seventies and eighties, you may recall that George Jetson had a robot housemaid called Rosie and that Richie Rich had one named Irona. But unlike the futuristic scenario presented in The Jetsons, the British-American sci-fi drama television series Humans, is set in a parallel present - in London. And just like Richie Rich, the synthetic human-like droids called "synths" remain the exclusive domain of wealthy humans.
Episode one of Humans introduces viewers to several subplots cleverly woven together, similar to that found in the tangled plot of a good Spanish movie. In addition, viewers are given information piecemeal, which acts to heighten our curiosity even further. Adding to the intrigue, suspense and urgency of the story is the interesting use of flashbacks, relating to past events of a group of fugitive conscious synths. Also thrown into the mix is a good dose of humour, which in my opinion is a winning formula. Bordering on the thriller genre, Humans engages viewers in such as way that it is impossible not to want to make connections and question what is going on, rather than just watching it passively.
In Episode two, the theme of freedom vs control is pervasive and viewers are introduced into the darker, more sinister side of society. Synths have replaced people by taking over labour-intensive and menial jobs. Not only can synths do the jobs of humans but they can do them better, as Laura (played by Katherine Parkinson) realises when she refers to herself as being "a shit mother". For Laura's husband, Joe (played by Tom Goodman-Hill ), the new synth technology is both a quick fix for the domestic chaos around him as well as an unexpected temptation. But synths are not always perfect. They can also break down and malfunction as George (played by William Hurt) discovers with his outdated companion synth Odi. Odi's new replacement synth, Vera, turns out to be a bossy control-freak nurse who is both a source of terror and angst for George. And just like computers and phones, synths can also be hacked to extract information.
From hiding his magical powers in "Merlin", to hiding a band of fugitive conscious synths, Colin Morgan is an exceptional talent. (Pic courtesy o iview.abc.net.au/programs/humans/)
Underlying the world of artificial intelligent robotic synths is a group of conscious synths who can think, feel, and act for themselves. Led by Leo (played by Colin Morgan), they represent the anomaly, a theme so often found in other movies - think of Neo in The Matrix, 1999, David in Jumper, 2008, and Tris in Divergent, 2014 etc. Again we are presented with the themes of diversity, acceptance, and belonging. The existence of a "singularity" creates fear and so the hunt is on to find the group of fugitive synths. Humans, although not based on an original concept, contains many dense layers of meaning and metaphor for those willing to make the mental leap. Not only are the characters engaging, the actors' performances are exceptional. If only Aussie drama was this good!
Humans (rated M) screens on ABC2 on Mondays at 8.30pm.